Exploring STEM Careers Initiative
This project is creating a replicable, prototype community-based model for engaging middle and high school students in challenge-based programs such as robotics competitions (Botball and iARoC), engineering challenges (Kid Wind), and research events (Sea Perch). The project is serving 110 teachers and 750 students representing 7 school districts and 75 schools. Partners include organizations that broadly represent the science educational institutions of the San Diego area. There is a cadre of volunteer STEM professionals who are mentoring teachers and students. The goals include increasing motivation for 6th-12th grade students; preparation of teachers to use challenge-based learning; establishment of a virtual network for collaboration; and development of a sustainable model for all of San Diego County. The project is using culturally relevant strategies and social learning networks as a communication tool, with an emphasis on disadvantaged students in San Diego County, especially the large population of Hispanics. Students are presenting their work in several local STEM-related community events.
The research findings are contributing to the current literature regarding engagement in challenge-based programs, especially in comparing how out of school experiences compare with formal school settings in the areas of career choice, post secondary choice, and success in STEM disciplines. The research is using a quasi-experimental design with both quantitative and qualitative data. The products include online learning modules and a model for a bilingual STEM Career Fair Night. An attractive feature of the project that could be transformative is a model organizational structure in which a relatively small organization, San Diego Science Alliance, provides coordination, communication, and inspiration that marshal the STEM education efforts of a large number of bigger institutions across a major urban area. This structure is leveraging and maximizing the local resources efficiently and effectively. The model is being made available to be replicated in other large cities with similar resources.